The Hours
Starring:
Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Claire Danes, Ed Harris
Directed By:
Stephen Daldry
Grade
A-

Covering three different eras that parallel each other to some degree, The Hours is based on the Cunningham novel of the same name. The three separate storylines are laid out, overlapping, telling a story about three women dealing with the events of their lives. While similar events and concepts, including depression, suicide and sexuality, link the three woman, the main tie among them is Virginia Woolf's book Mrs. Dalloway.

The movie begins with the inevitable suicide of Virginia Woolf (Kidman), but the rest of her story sequences detail her fight with depression, all the while writing Mrs. Dalloway some 20 years earlier. The second story arc is set in the 1950's with Lara Brown (Moore), a pregnant suburban mother, who is suffering from depression and an identity crisis. Her husband, who has become detached from reality, tries to fit her and their son into this perfect family life, but this life is not one that Lara wants. Instead, she finds herself sexually attracted to her neighbor's wife and even plans to leave her family. The third arc involves Clarissa Vaughn (Streep), a lesbian who's trying to put together a celebration for her ex-husband (Harris), an AIDS-striken poet/author who's also suffering from his own failing sanity.

The story is told in an overlapping, train-of-thought manner that focuses largely on the characters and their interaction with each other. Composed largely of day-to-day events, the bulk of the story feels more like a slice of three people's lives rather than some overly poignant story that's heavy-handed in its story telling.

While Kidman is wonderful in her award-winning performance of the depressed and suicidal author, I personally felt she was overshadowed by Streep, whose own life seems a tad more rich and dynamic, with the relationship between herself and her longtime lover (Janney), her daughter (Danes), and her ex-husband. Ed Harris proves to be the strongest supporting character of the film as a man who's dying and wonders if he only stays alive for Clarrisa's sake. Moore's portion of the film is the least interesting, but it does serve as a basis for the present day story arc.

The strongest aspect of the film is it's unflinching portrayal of those suffering from mental illness and the people who live with them. If you have ever known someone struggling with suicide and mental illness, then you'll find at least one or two characters here that you can sympathize with. The performances show a real sensitivity towards the subject and can really drive home the despair and anxiety that the situation creates.

For those looking for a movie with a set purpose and a straightforward plot, The Hours isn't for you. It is, though, a fine detail of human lives and how relationships and people have changed over time. If you were interested in this title, feel free to give it a view as it does show off some great performances.

- - Kinderfeld

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